Chana Dal

Sabera is one of my very favorite bloggers. Over on One Life to Eat, she shares simple recipes from her homeland, India. Sabera has taught me a few of the subtle techniques in Indian cooking that really make the spice combinations sing. Like dropping black mustard seeds in hot oil to hear them crackle and pop before sauteeing the onions. The aroma of the spiced oil is amazing and immediately reminds me of my favorite chana masala dish at the small Indian cafe in our neighborhood.

A couple weeks ago, there was a beautiful 60 degree, sunny day…seems like ages ago now, as we’ve been stuck back in the high 30s with gale-force winds for days on end. I took advantage of the good weather and got my bike out for my first ride of the season. I went down to the Indian/Pakistani area on Devon Avenue in Chicago to stock up on spices and lentils so I could make a few of Sabera’s recipes. Biking down Devon is a sensory experience. As you coast down the small hill into the Indian corridor, the smell of spices wafts from open shop doors and the aroma of roasting meats from the Kebab houses makes your stomach rumble. Biking also allows you to take in all the sights at a slow pace, so you can stop and wander into any shop that looks interesting – not to mention that parking a bike is MUCH easier than parking a car in this bustling neighborhood.

Patel Brothers
grocery is a spice-lover’s haven. The walls are lined floor to ceiling with cubbies full of spice packets, many of which are unfamiliar to this Midwestern woman. Luckily, Patel is well-staffed, and I had a personal guide through the shop to help locate everything on my list – and then some. Returning home, I dove into the kitchen to soak some chana dal (split chickpeas) so I could make this dish the next day. This is a really simple dal, and I loved the heartiness of the split chickpeas which retain most of their structure after the dal is made. Sauteeing the onions with the whole spices and curry leaves really made a huge flavor impact on the finished dish. I don’t often cook with curry leaves, but every time I do, I’m reminded of how important they are, adding a wonderful fragrance to any dish and a light curry flavor without a lot of heat.  If you enjoy dal, I’d encourage you to give this one a try!

What’s your favorite kind of dal, or your favorite chickpea dish? Share your chickpea obsessions in the comments below…

Chana Dal
Adapted from One Life to Eat
Serves 6

2 T olive oil + 1 T coconut oil
2 cups Channa dal (Split Chickpeas) washed well and soaked overnight in a large bowl, covered in at least 3″ of water
1 large onion chopped
1 can diced fire roasted tomatoes
3-4 curry leaves
1 T black mustard seeds (same as brown mustard seeds)
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
4 cloves chopped garlic
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 T fresh grated ginger
3/4 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp Garam masala
Salt to taste
A large handful of chopped cilantro
Lemon wedges for garnishing

  1. Heat large dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the oil, and when it’s hot and shimmering, add the mustard, cumin seeds and curry leaves. When the seeds start to pop and splutter, add the onions and saute until the onions are translucent and soft – about 5-7 minutes.
  2. Add the ginger & garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and cook until heated throough. Add the chopped bell pepper and add all the dry spices and cook for another 5 minutes.
  3. Drain off all water from the soaked chickpeas, rinse and add to the pot. Add enough water to almost, but not quite cover the beans. Cover, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer until the beans are done, but not mushy – about 2 1/4 hours. Stir the beans occasionally as they cook. (Note: bean cooking time will vary, so it may be more or less time for you). If the beans soak up all the liquid while cooking, you can add a bit more as they cook.  Add salt to taste.
  4. Chop a big handful of cilantro and stir it in at the last moment, reserving a few leaves to garnish each bowl. Serve with brown rice, or Indian breads (roti, naan, paratha). Add a wedge of lemon with each bowl for seasoning.
300 cal per 1 cup serving, 45 cal from fat, 9g fat, 410mg sodium, 150mg potassium, 43g carbs, 8g fiber, 4g sugar, 15g protein

13 thoughts on “Chana Dal

  1. Ha! I just made this dal two nights ago to go with kheema.
    My husband grew up in Pakistan so curry is a standard for this household. At least, when we are not at our favorite Pakistani restaurant.

  2. I guess the sign of a true cook is one who can take a traditional or ethnic recipe and make it her own. I haven’t got there yet, but I’m so excited to know you have! I’ve hardly met anyone who can do this – the only other person being my mother. I like your chopped bell pepper variation. My husband loves peppers so I’m trying this out for sure. Cheers!

    • Thanks, Sabera! I’m glad you approve of the modifications. I am completely unable to follow any recipe as-is…I always want to improvise! This dal was definitely a hit in our house – thanks for the recipe!

  3. yum, jenn! i love shopping up on devon, but sadly haven’t been much. i’ve actually never cooked with dal, although i have some at home and have been meaning to! maybe this will be my inspiration 🙂

  4. I’ve become really interested in Indian food lately and have taken to stocking up my pantry with every new Indian spice I come across! I think I have most of these ingredients back home and I would love to try this out! It looks really tasty!

    Oh, and thank you for the link to Sabera’s blog!

  5. u can try arhar daal too,one of the most prominent dish in indian foods.arahar i m sorry i dont know what its called in english,but u can look to the web for the dish,its also similar and simple to make,and its much delecious ,kinda soft too at taste
    love to see someone praise our dishes,we also love western dishes…
    and sorry for mistakes in english

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